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Genteel Evening’s Fireball Racing on Dublin Bay

16th August 2017
Fireballs on Dublin Bay Fireballs on Dublin Bay Photo:

As the midweek racing in Dublin Bay Sailing Club gets to its close we had one of the more pleasant evenings of weather this summer with a gentle breeze and sunshine for two races outside the harbour in Scotsman’s Bay. Twenty-four boats answered the Race Officer’s call, Ian Mathews from the Flying Fifteen fleet, and of these, three were Fireballs.

With Stephen Oram unavailable due to work commitments, Noel Butler teamed up with Grattan Donnelly and with Hermine O’Keefe on hockey support duties in Europe, Louise McKenna engaged the services of Cormac Bradley, leaving David and Michael Keegan (14676) as the only regular team out on the water. Holidays and unavailability reduced the fleet to three boats.

There was a slightly eerie feel to the race course area, the tide had already started to ebb and while there was wind on the water there was no real “oomph” to it. While spinnakers were set on the sail down to the start area, there was no real energy to the boat.

For the first start the three Fireballs decided to go for the pin end and to be frank none of us were on the start line when the gun went. Possibly a tactical call, but even Noel was late across the start line as the three boats decided to embrace the flow of the ebbing tide and sail westwards towards the harbour mouth. Noel/Grattan occupied the windward slot, David/Michael the leeward slot and Louise/Cormac were the “meat in the sandwich”. Initially the latter pair seemed to have a bit more boat speed, but this was going to be a night of wind vagaries and soon Noel/Grattan had sailed over the top of the other two. A starboard hail by a Laser Vago caused Louise/Cormac to take a hitch inshore and by the time they rounded the weather mark, Noel/Grattan had a healthy lead which they never relinquished. Two laps of a windward-leeward course was the recipe for Race 1 with a weather mark set in the direction of the East Wall of the harbour. The first downwind leg saw a variety of approaches being taken with more than one gybe being executed on the way to the leeward mark. A snagged spinnaker halyard for Louise resulted in a poor spinnaker drop that allowed the Keegans to close the gap to less than a boat-length but a recovery was fashioned on the next beat to generate a final finishing order of Butler-McKenna-Keegan.

While the wind strength and direction was pretty much the same for the second race, all three boats adopted the opposite approach to the start of the first race. In tandem with the PY start that preceded the Fireballs – everyone went inshore first! Noel/Grattan played a game of “Shut the Door” at the pin end with Louise/Cormac with both boats doing pirouettes in the vicinity of the pin before all three headed off on starboard tack, Noel/Grattan having the windward slot. All three worked their way up to the port lay-line of the weather mark and took a long sail into the mark on port tack. This led to the easing of sheets as they closed in on the mark. On rounding the weather and spreader marks spinnakers were set on a starboard tack as the boats went down-tide with the sequence being Noel/Grattan, Louise/Cormac and David/Michael with a couple of boat-lengths separating each from the other. The leaders gybed first, followed a moment or two later by Louise/Cormac with David/Michael gybing simultaneously with the second pair. This left all three sailing a slightly loose reach to the leeward mark with the committee boat already on the move to relocate at the weather mark for a shortened course. David/Michael got better breeze and sailed away from Louise/Cormac. Rounding the leeward mark, there seemed little sense in Louise/Cormac following the other two out to the right of the course as there was little sense that boat speed alone would effect a place change, so an inshore tack was initiated – after all it had worked on the first beat! For a period of time it looked better, rather than good, and the sense of a possible recovery was heightened when the other two seemed to have to sail a huge distance westwards before they tacked for a starboard approach to what was now the finishing line.

While hope sprang eternal, reality bit and a finishing order of Noel/Grattan, David/Michael and Louise/Cormac closed the evening’s proceedings. David/Michael appeared to close quite a bit on Noel/Grattan but the winners gained a few more boat-lengths at the finish.

With two possible Tuesdays left the current situation in Series 2 is as follows;

DBSC Series 2: Tuesday Nights; 6 races, 2 discards.




Conor & James Clancy/Teddy Byrne







Noel Butler/Phil Lawton &

Stephen Oram/Grattan Donnelly







Louise McKenna & Hermine O’Keeffe/Cormac Bradley







Frank Miller & Ed Butler/Grattan Donnelly







David & Michael Keegan






Four Irish Fireballs will be in Lyme Regis for the Europeans next week, with measurement on Saturday and racing starting on Sunday (20th) through to Friday (25th). The entry now stands at 85, with entries from the UK, Australia, France, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Canada, Belgium and Ireland. The defending champions are Ruedi Moser and Claude Mermod (SUI 14799) and as can be expected of a Fireball International event in the UK, the entry list is littered with the “Who’s Who” of the Fireball community. Race Officer is Paul Withers, an IJ and IRO and former Secretary of the Class.

Irish Fireball readers of this report are also reminded of our Fireball Nationals which are scheduled for Lough Derg Yacht Club on the weekend of 15 – 17th September, under the race management of National race Officer John Leech. This is a nine-race programme and we will be endeavouring to have a “latish start” to proceedings on Friday to try and accommodate those who might want to go to the office first. Nothing confirmed yet, but this is what we have done before.

Published in Fireball
Cormac Bradley

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Cormac Bradley

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Dublin Bay Fireballer Cormac Bradley was appointed Rear Commodore of the International Fireball Class in 2017. He is a regular dinghy and one design correspondent on

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At A Glance – Fireball Dinghy Specs

Crew 2 (single trapeze)
LOA 16 ft 2 in (4.93 m)
Beam 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m)
Hull weight 175 lb (79 kg)
Mast height 22.3 ft (6.8 m)
Mainsail area 108 sq ft (10.0 m2).
Jib / Genoa area 35 sq ft (3.3 m2).
Spinnaker area 140 sq ft (13 m2).

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